Knicks coach Derek Fisher reflects on LeBron’s decision, while still waiting for Carmelo Anthony to make his

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LAS VEGAS — Derek Fisher made his head coaching debut for the Knicks on Friday, leading the team’s somewhat stacked Summer League squad to a 76-64 victory over the Mavericks.

“There was definitely some emotion coming into the building today, and this morning, as I started to really think about what this meant,” Fisher said. “And that this would be the first time that I got a chance to actually coach my team in a game situation. The players made me look probably better than I am right now, but the same way that I ask them to work hard and continue to do the things they need to do to get better, that’s what I do. And it was a lot of fun today.”

The first game of the day in Las Vegas was merely a backdrop, however, for the avalanche of free agent news that continues to roll in now that the biggest piece to the puzzle has fallen into place.

LeBron James going to the Cavaliers set off a flurry of other moves, but his leaving Miami is likely to have the greatest impact on shifting the balance of power in the Eastern Conference. Fisher reflected on that decision, while still awaiting word on whether or not his own marquee free agent in Carmelo Anthony will choose to be back with the Knicks next season.

“I wasn’t necessarily surprised,” Fisher said of James returning to Cleveland. “It appeared that he was seriously considering it for some days now. So, not so much of a surprise. He appears to be a smart young man, and has always thought of himself as more than just a basketball player. From that standpoint, it looks like things are going to work out, and I’m happy for him and his family if that’s what he truly wants.”

Fisher may not be similarly happy for Anthony if he too should leave, but supports his right to play wherever he chooses.

“I think everyone from our perspective has expressed, directly and indirectly, how we feel about having Carmelo back here and what that would mean,” Fisher said. “But he’s an adult. He’s allowed to make decisions he feels like are best for him and for his family. Whatever decision that is, we’ll respect it, and we’ll have to continue to do what the New York Knicks have to do. But hopefully we’ll hear something soon, so that we can move forward in terms of our business.”

For now, that business involves getting acclimated to his new role as coach, and beginning to work toward putting a system in place that will give New York the best chance to approach the status of contender in the immediate future. While James leaving certainly shifts the focus of power, his new team may not be as well-equipped to instantly compete for a title. But long before LeBron left Miami, Fisher signed up for this gig with the belief that the Knicks could do some damage in the East — a possibility that would seem all the more plausible with Anthony firmly in place.

“I don’t’ know if it’s just about LeBron going to Cleveland,” Fisher said. “I’ve always had the view, before even taking this job, that we would have a chance to compete in the Eastern Conference. I know a lot of people think that we need to change players and we have some guys that can’t play any more, et cetera. That’s just not my belief.”

“We expect to be able to compete in the Eastern Conference,” Fisher said. “Obviously, having Carmelo would make that easier.”

Irving’s 47 lead Celtics past Mavericks to maintain streak

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DALLAS (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 on Monday night and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team’s first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters.

Irving and Barnes had chances in the final 30 seconds but both missed shots that would have given their teams the lead.

The Mavericks fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, outscoring the Celtics 55-35 over the second and third quarters.

Dallas took its biggest lead of the game when Yogi Ferrell fed a cutting Dwight Powell for a lay-up to make it 87-74 with 7:47 to play before the Celtics rallied.

Boston shot just 10-for-34 over the two middle quarters after building the early lead.

 

DeMarcus Cousins ejected after elbowing Russell Westbrook in head

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ history of flagrant fouls certainly didn’t help him here, but if anyone elbows a guy in the head, he’s going to get tossed.

And that’s what Cousins did here.

Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, Cousins blocked a putback attempt by Russell Westbrook, then grabbed the rebound. Westbrook tried to reach in across Cousins’ body for the steal, and Cousins cleared out space with his elbow — right to Westbrook’s head. Cousins walked around saying “no, no, no” afterward, and he likely thinks the officials had it out for him here because he was just getting a guy off him, but we go back to the original point — elbow a guy in the head, get tossed. The league is cracking down on blows above the neck. Westbrook did not leave the game.

The Pelicans went on to come from 19 down to win the game 114-107, behind 36 points and 15 boards from Anthony Davis.

Damn, Paul George with the in-game bounce pass alley-oop to Jerami Grant

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The game has been close (as of midway through the third quarter), but that didn’t stop Oklahoma City from putting on a show in New Orleans.

Paul George had the ball on a 2-on-0 fast break and decided to throw the playground bounce-pass alley-oop, which Jerami Grant got up and finished with authority. This could be one of the dunks of the year.

We’re going to see that highlight for a while.

Jusuf Nurkic’s agent says big man wants to stay in Portland this summer

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Last season, after his trade from frustrated backup big in Denver to new starter in Portland, there was a honeymoon — the Blazers went 14-6, their defense was better, and Nurkic was a big man setting big picks for quick guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This season the honeymoon is over, things have been up and down, but far from time to say the marriage should end, as he is a free agent next summer. Nurkic is the only real starting center on the roster (even if coach Terry Stotts left him on the bench in the fourth quarter in favor of Ed Davis a few games back). Nurkic is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and the Blazers’ defense is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. However, his effort level has been up and down, and his shot is off, with a true shooting percentage of just 49.4, and he is shooting just 56.6 percent in the restricted area.

Nurkic wants to stay in Portland, his agent told Ben Golliver in a story at Sports Illustrated (that story is worth the read for the Nurkic origin story, which is amazing).

“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch, the agent, told The Crossover by telephone this week. “We had some [extension] talks but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”

The two sides talked extension before the season, but Portland understandably wanted to make sure there was more to this relationship than just a honeymoon. It gave Nurkic a chance to drive up his asking price.

Portland and Nurkic likely will find a long-term deal next summer because it just makes sense for both sides. There are not a lot of teams with max free agent money next summer (4-6, I was told by an insider), or a lot of money to spend in general, and both DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus would be centers on the market who rank ahead of Nurkic. Portland will offer more than other free agent destinations, if not as much as Nurkic dreamed of, and they will find common ground.

But there is a lot of season to play out before then. The Blazers feel like a team that should be better than its record so far, and Nurkic is part of that untapped potential. If things change, that’s good for Nurkic — and the Blazers.